I’m reading Give My Regards to Eighth Street right now and running head first into Morton Feldman’s philosophy, which somehow reminds me a little of Kierkegaard. Feldman is a very funny person, and very direct; sometimes I find what he has to say hard to swallow, but his conviction and passion are totally convincing, so I keep reading and keep thinking. Eventually my brain turns inside out and I find that I’ve learned something new—about art and music, about what I think, or about how others think. I can feel my perspective grow a little bit each time.
Feldman is also succinct, and sometimes he says things that stand all on their own, whether they’re about art or something else entirely. It’s those thoughts and comments that I’ll be sharing here in the weeks to come, under the “Let the Sounds Alone” title. Maybe I’ll comment on them from time to time, but for the most part I just want to share his ideas because I think they’re so exciting.
From The Anxiety of Art (1965), discussing Cage’s dictum that “Everything is music:”
Just as there is an implied decision in a precise and selective art, there is an equally implied decision in allowing everything to be art. There is a Zen riddle that replies to its own question. “Does a dog have the Buddha nature?” the riddle asks. “Answer either way and you lose your own Buddha nature.”
The search for art, all too often, has been another mask for the search for knowledge. Another attempt to reach heaven with facts. Since the Tower of Babel, this attempt has failed. You can’t reach heaven with knowledge, you can’t reach it with ideas, and you can’t even reach it with belief — remember our Zen riddle!